Can I take parental leave when my child dies?
The loss of a child can be truly devastating on their family. Recent changes to employment law seek to alleviate some of the distress parents go through by increasing their minimum leave entitlement following the death of a child.
Changes to the law
From 6 April 2020, the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations give parents a legal right to two weeks paid leave following the loss of a child under 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks’ pregnancy.
Known as ‘Jack’s Law’ in memory of Jack Herd, the new provisions ensure compassion from employers to grieving parents. Jack’s mother, Lucy Herd, campaigned tirelessly for change when following 23 month old Jack’s tragic death by drowning in the family pond, his father was forced to return to work after only three days off. At that time the law only guaranteed a minimum of three days bereavement leave for parents including the day of the funeral.
The new regulations give a statutory right to two weeks paid parental bereavement leave. Importantly, this allowance can be taken in one two week block, or two one week blocks. Leave may be taken at any point in the first 56 weeks after the child’s death, so that painful occasions like the first anniversary of the death are covered. If more than one child dies, parents receive two weeks leave for each child.
Who can be eligible?
This right applies not only to biological parents. Adoptive parents and those with parental responsibility for the child (for at least four weeks before they died) are eligible. Intended parents, referring to those due to become a parent through surrogacy, are also entitled.
Parents must be classed as employees to benefit from the regulations. Self-employed parents and those classed as workers (where employment is more casual) are not entitled to statutory parental bereavement leave (they may receive statutory pay for the time they take off). Employees are entitled to take parental bereavement leave from their first day of employment.
What will I be paid?
You will only be paid for the leave if you have been employed for at least 26 weeks (6 months) at the date of your child’s death. Pay will be at the same rate as statutory maternity/ paternity pay per week unless your employment contract is more generous.
Do I have a claim if my child dies?
Whilst no money can ever compensate for the loss sometimes the process of bringing a claim can answer questions about what happened and why. Compensation can also help if there is a financial burden.
Claims involving stillbirth
A stillbirth caused by negligence in pregnancy/birth can be subject of legal claim. In a successful claim you might get damages for pain and suffering, both physical and mental including the ‘loss of satisfaction from concluding pregnancy’. You can also claim for counselling, lost earnings, funeral costs and expenditure on your stillborn baby.
Learn more by visiting our Stillbirth page
Loss of a child under aged 18
When a child dies there is a claim for their pain and suffering and also any financial losses. Whilst it would be unusual circumstances, if someone was dependant upon the child, for example as a carer, there may also be a claim for the loss of their financial or caring contribution.
There is also a statutory bereavement award payable to parents if a child dies. This is payable only once (not to each parent). The sum increased for deaths after 1 May 2020 from £12,980 to £15,120.